Humour is the first of the gifts to perish in a foreign tongue.

-Virginia Woolf

Image courtesy of rakratchadra at

As I sit here, trying to work out how to start this post, I realise that I really, really miss my Dad. He was funny! He made me laugh. Sometimes he was frustrating, he would stir and stir – but he could take it too. Dad used to tell fantastic jokes; sometimes many, many times, but that was ok. He had that ‘Dad humour’ too: we’d drive past a cemetery, ‘And, here we are in the dead centre of (insert random place).’; I’d be reading a book, ‘Hey Kellie, I’ve just read this great book called Yellow River by I.P Daly.’ He also thought it was extremely funny to wind up all the windows in the car while we were at the drive-in (remember them?), lock the doors and then fart. I paid him back in kind later on though. (Yep – too much information there – sorry.)

Man, I miss him … I honestly don’t think I laugh as much any more … or roll my eyes in mock frustration.

Humour, or what is humorous, is so different from person to person. My father’s humour was dry, rather toilet-y and full of stirring and taking the piss. I take after him, a fact that is not appreciated by either my mother, nor my husband – my kids are learning though. I am also teaching them an appreciation for Seinfeld, which my husband despises, while he is trying to introduce them to Monty Python, which I can’t stand. (I’m winning, just saying, for clearly obvious reasons; how is a guy eating so much that he explodes even remotely funny?)

Sarcasm is something else I engage in a bit. It is said to be the lowest form of humour, although I believe it is the same as cooking a steak to well-done; it is entirely doable but you have to be skilled enough to pull it off.

Comedy also differs greatly from country to country. In many cases it seems to be a translation issue as you simply cannot translate implied meaning or slang to have the same effect.

I remember sitting in a cinema in Japan, watching Crocodile Dundee (the first one, second one was a turkey). Thankfully, the movie hadn’t been dubbed, as many foreign movies were at that time, but was subtitled instead.

The cinema was full of Japanese people with myself and a couple of friends being the only English-speaking patrons. At many points through the movie, my friends and I were the only ones laughing.

Upon reading the subtitles (which I could then, not so sure I would be able to now, it’s been a while), I discovered many of the translations were literal and just didn’t capture the Australian vernacular or nuance. In some cases though, I feel the Australian style of humour was just not funny for Japanese people. (I am compelled to add here that one of my English-speaking mates was an American, and she didn’t laugh at some of the funny bits either.)

On the other side of the coin, a lot of the Japanese comedy shows we would watch on TV were … how will I put it … not funny.

When we were living in Japan there seemed to be a glut of ‘talk / game show’ style programmes which involved people being subjected to various forms of torture, pain and embarrassment. The shows involved anything from being forced to eat a bowl of really hot chillies or a bucket of ice-cream (while enduring a mother of an ice-cream headache) to walking blindfolded amongst an audience armed with nails, needles and other spiky objects which they wielded with shameless abandon or being forced to sit in a bath of (literally) boiling water, then jumping into a bucket of ice.

The laughter from the audience was raucous. We, on the other hand, changed channels. (Although, I will admit to having a slight internal giggle when I typed the bit about the ice-cream.)

It is a shame that humour is so subjective, and more of a shame that great offence can be taken by misunderstanding someone’s attempt at humour. The world needs to laugh, together, more often.





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